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"It was my preferred entertainment when I was a kid, so when I set out to be a writer, it was perfectly natural that I should write the sort of stories that I used to enjoy reading."
- John Brunner

Garbage Screen  
  Use of bits of metal to confuse radar targeting of space stations.  

"We'd better report this down to Earth," Joe said. "By the way, better not describe our screen of tin cans on radio waves. Not even microwaves. It might leak. And we want to see if it works."

Just forty-two hours later they found out that it did work. A single rocket came climbing furiously out from Earth. It came from the night-side, and they could not see where it was launched, though they could make excellent guesses. They got a single guided missile ready to crash it if necessary.

It wasn't necessary. The bomb from Earth detonated 300 miles below the artificial satellite. Its proximity fuse, sending out small radar-type waves, had them reflected back by an empty sardine can thrown away from the Platform by Mike Scandia forty-some hours ago. The sardine can had been traveling in its own private orbit ever since. The effect of Mike's muscles had not been to send it back to Earth, but to change the center of the circular orbit in which it floated. Sometimes it floated above the Platform—that was on one side of Earth—and sometimes below it. It was about 300 miles under the Platform when it reflected urgent, squealing radar frequency waves to a complex proximity fuse in the climbing rocket. The rocket couldn't tell the difference between a sardine can and a Space Platform.

From Space Tug, by Murray Leinster.
Published by Not known in 1953
Additional resources -

Later in the story, this method was formalized:

"Shoot the ghosts," said Joe.

The three drone-handlers pushed their buttons. Nothing happened that anybody could see. Actually, though, a small gadget outside the hull began to cough rhythmically. Similar devices on the drones coughed, too. They were small, multiple-barreled guns. Rifle shells fired two-pound missiles at random targets in emptiness. They wouldn't damage anything they hit. They'd go varying distances, explode and shoot small lead shot ahead to check their missile-velocity, and then emit dense masses of aluminum foil. There was no air resistance. The shredded foil would continue to move through emptiness at the same rate as the convoy-fleet. The seven ships had fired a total of eighty-four such objects away into the blackness of Earth's shadow. There were, then, seven ships and eighty-four masses of aluminum foil moving through emptiness. They could not be seen by telescopes.

The idea of using chaff (bits of metal such as aluminum) to create false radar echoes was suggested as early as 1937. A formal scheme to dump packets of aluminum strips from aircraft to generate false echoes was put forward by 1942. The idea was fully developed by both sides (Allied and German), but oddly neither side used it until almost 1944. The reasoning went as follows: If the other side didn't have it, if they used it once they would give the idea to the other side, who would quickly duplicate it, and neither side had a way of adequately dealing with it.

I was unable to find references to radar-defeating chaff used by space craft (maybe both/all sides are afraid to be the first...).

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  More Ideas and Technology from Space Tug
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